No English-Speaker Left Behind

Imagine moving to a new country, attempting to learn a new
language, and having your intelligence measured by tests that you
can barely read. According to articles in the
Monterey County Weekly and the
East Valley Tribune, Arizona and
California — states with high immigrant populations — require
students to take standardized tests in English, regardless of their
proficiency in the language. As a result, test scores are lower and
schools are failing to meet federal regulations under the No Child
Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The White House has touted the law as the
means to strengthen elementary and secondary schools by relying
on annual standardized testing to measure schools’ improvement.
The law has received harsh criticism from parents and teachers
worried about the sanctions schools face for low scores. Factor
in the test results of English learners, and schools have an
even greater chance of being labeled ‘in need of
assistance.’

The NCLB requires that students show increasing levels of
proficiency in math and reading. But, Zachary Stahl reports for the
Monterey County Weekly, the law doesn’t mention offering
tests in students’ native languages or allowing schools to exclude
the results of non-native speakers. According to Stahl, 10
districts in California are suing the state asking for English
learners to be allowed to take tests in Spanish. Results of the
case could affect almost a quarter of the state’s pupils.
California state Senator Denise Ducheny recently presented her
third bill promoting alternative testing; Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger vetoed her previous two attempts.

Numerous other governors, however, support alternatives for
English learners. Pauline Vu writes for
Stateline.org that the National Governors
Association sent a list of recommendations to Congress on ways
to improve the act, which is up for renewal this year. Among the
suggestions, Vu writes, is ‘allowing states to decide the most
appropriate way to test students,’ which could provide students
more time to learn English before taking the tests.

In the end, it may come down to state laws regarding
standardized tests. As reported in the East Valley
Tribune
, the state superintendent of public instruction filed
a lawsuit against the US Department of Education in an attempt to
reinstate Arizona’s previous policy of excluding the scores of
certain non-native English learners. The case was dismissed in
February.

Go there >>
Language Barrier

Go there, too >>
Govs Call for More Control Over NCLB

And there >>
Counting
English Learners’ AIMS Scores May Hurt Local Schools

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